SAM HAGGARTY | OPINION COLUMNIST | email@example.com
Confidence is a fickle thing. Some people bear it in excess while others flounder in its absence. Any of my friends could tell you that I am the latter. I get fidgety, don’t make eye contact, either talk too much or too little and apologize for everything that I do.
Even still, if I had a claymore, I could take a gorilla in a fight any day of the week. For those of you who are reading and don’t know what I look like, that might seem reasonable. For those of you who do know what I look like, shut up — I totally can. However, the fact of the matter is if you were to ask any man what animal they could kill with a sword, an outlandish answer like a gorilla would be a tame expectation. But why?
Be it testosterone, how we were raised or most likely lunacy, a lot of men have the tendency to overestimate themselves.
About 6% of respondents to a YouGov survey said that they could kill a grizzly bear, with many others sharing the extremes of their insanity and listing the animals they could take in a fight. The greatest commonality among responses for almost all the animals in the poll was that more men answered they would win in a fight, whereas women were often less delusional in their answers.
Murdoch Macdonald, a sophomore mathematics and Spanish double major, recognizes that this attitude is intrinsic to the male condition.
“[This mindset] happens to all of us naturally,” Macdonald said. “That’s why more guys [overestimate].”
The alleged jaguar slayer is right. For one reason or another, all guys seem to agree that we just have it in us to win against insurmountable odds, and this isn’t just in terms of combat. We might not be trained in a specific field, but we feel like we can probably figure it out. From carpentry and plumbing to writing constitutions, the average man really believes he can do it all.
A YouGov survey from earlier this year showed about 46% of men with no flight training felt that they could land a plane, compared to about 20% of women.
Some may suggest that perhaps women are just not as brave or willing to take risks as men. After all, historically, when we tell someone to be brave, we tell them to “man up.” Perhaps women are just not as competitive and thus less risk-engaging as men.
Sophomore healthcare and business major Kylie Knuth doesn’t think this is the case.
“A man and a woman could both equally be competitive, but at the same time, [the man] is going to take it one notch further because he feels like he has to,” Knuth said. “I just feel like in these hypothetical scenarios, [men are] like, ‘Okay, I’m a pro at this, I know how to do this.’”
That might be too sobering of an answer for many men out there, but it is fair to say that our answers to these questions lack realism. Of the many alleged pilots I’ve spoken to who think they could defeat bears, lions, elephants or tigers, none of them really have any form of training or otherwise proof to back up their claims. So why is this delusion so split by gender?
When presented with these scenarios, Gender Equity Movement Secretary Carys Durbin, a junior multilingual studies and software engineering double major, explained that these ideas are reinforced by society.
“Typically, in traditional gender roles, [men] are seen as the dependable ones, the ones that will do the more dangerous things,” Durbin said. “A lot of societal conditioning and societal pressure have created the idea of male hyper-confidence … Part of it has got to come from the fact that men aren’t really allowed to express emotions or anything but that confidence.”
This notion has been brought up more in recent years in regards to toxic masculinity, but its manifestation within confidence and stupidity should be noted. While it might sound ridiculous, I think the reason doing “Jackass”-inspired stunts or knowingly going into a situation blind is appealing to a lot of men is because they allow some of the most raw and genuine feelings we can experience. There is always talk of adrenaline junkies doing stunts, but the more asinine manifestations of this are the real ways a lot of men actually express themselves in day-to-day life.
Furthermore, we as a society need to begin acknowledging the problem in this. While I am not arguing for the complete abandonment of risk or engaging in otherwise stupid activities, I think that we need to acknowledge what practical purpose they are serving for some men, even if they don’t realize it. In doing so, I believe that we can ensure the engagement of stupidity is at the very least not self-destructive.
All in all, as much as believing in ourselves is necessary — since no one believes in us as strongly as we believe in ourselves — the maintenance of rationality is equally important. The more we examine why we take these risks, the more we will come to understand what we truly desire to express. But who knows? Maybe that’s just the mindset of someone who could land a plane.